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Out & About / Ventura County

Satisfying Gifts

Special food and beverage items will gratify the appetites of many on your holiday list.


The Market Lady regrets to inform readers that she does not possess the gift gene.

For instance, if you're, say, a big NBA fan, you can depend on receiving a cute carved wooden dolphin from moi for Christmas or Hanukkah.

Hate jewelry? Never had your ears pierced? Then you're gonna just love the darling silver-plated giraffe stud earrings I'm wrapping for you as we speak.

Disdain Hummel figures? Well, get ready with that big, saccharine grin of thanks.

There's a word for such a blind spot: It's giftophobia--fear of buying the wrong gift.

Fortunately, there's a cure--or at least a therapy--for sufferers: gifts of food. Merely observe your designated loved one's favorite food or drink preference. Then, go out and buy (A) a lot of it, or (B) the most deluxe version of it you can afford. Here are some ideas:

* My cousin Jimmy and his wife, Cindy, are the only steak lovers in a family of vegetarians. Last Christmas, the Market Lady gave them two of the best 12-ounce filet mignon steaks her money could buy at the butcher's. The cost was $22 (no tax on food!).

* The Market Lady's favorite gift last year (she has no problem with receiving gifts) was from Nancy and Gordon: a big wedge of imported Parmesan cheese, a pound of linguine from Italy, a baguette of La Brea bread from the Corti Sisters deli and a CD called "Pasta and Puccini." O, sole mio!

* Does your loved one take her or his coffee very, very seriously? Then all you have to do is patronize one of the dozens of coffee emporiums in the county and choose a pound of something really exotic, like beans from the north slope of a Jamaican hillside or the south slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

* If your gift list includes a cheese hound, pay a call on your favorite deli or cheese counter, pick out a selection and deliver it in an inexpensive basket wrapped in green or red cellophane. Or buy a whole wheel of brie. Whee.

* Got a sister-in-law like mine, who gets all saucer-eyed when she sniffs chocolate? Give yours what someone gave mine: a 10-pound slab of Ghirardelli chocolate. "All for me?" she asked, blinking.

* The same sister-in-law will this year get a shiitake mushroom tree from one of the 3,978 gift catalogs that the Market Lady has received in the mail since Halloween. This tree will supposedly grow tasty mushrooms.

* Don't we all have a loved one or two with a really weird food preference, like my brother-in-law Bob, who receives a can of scrapple in his Christmas stocking each year?

* Then there's the Market Lady's husband, who suffers a complete disconnect with reality every December. He actually believes that everyone loves fruitcake as much as he does. When his cake arrives in the mail from Aunt Olga, he hides it from his loved one.

* The Market Lady is happy to announce that her recently married son and daughter-in-law's favorite wedding present was a $75 gift certificate to their favorite grocery store, Trader Joe's.

* If your sweetie likes spicy sauces, Smith & Smith's Salsa in Ventura carries hundreds, nay, thousands, some of which are so hot you have to show ID at point of purchase.

* Although you can't eat them, gifts from your local nursery--such as a sack of pricey flower bulbs, a king palm, a banana tree or a luscious orchid--are always food for a gardener's soul.

* If your best friend is a dog, give homemade dog biscuits. Here is a recipe from the Market Lady's favorite niece, Erica: Mix 3 1/2 c. white flour, 2 c. wheat flour, 1 c. rye flour, 2 c. bulgur wheat, 1 c. corn meal, 1/2 c. nonfat dry milk, 4 t. salt and 3 c. chicken broth. Dissolve envelope of dry yeast in 1/4 c. warm water. Stir all together until doughy. Roll out dough, cut out biscuits, bake on greased cookie sheet at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave in overnight. Feeds all neighborhood dogs.

Tip of the Week: Give that special someone a 4-foot-tall $25 Sequoia giganteum coast redwood, available at area nurseries. Just think, in a thousand years, your loved one's backyard may be declared a national forest.

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